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King Alfred School, Plön

Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

 

The school opened in May 48 as a co-educational boarding school for the children of the British Armed Forces and Control Commission personnel stationed in the British zone of Germany. It was situated on the shores of the Grosser Plöner See, in a beautiful area of hills and woods often called Holstein Switzerland.

The first Headmaster was F. Spencer Chapman, D.S.O, author of the "Jungle is Neutral" and other books on climbing and experiences in Tibet, the Arctic and Africa. The second and last Headmaster was H Wallis-Hosken 1953 to 1960. The six hundred or so boys and girls aged 11 to 18 were accommodated in five double houses 50 to 60 in each house. Each house had a house master with three or four male assistant teachers and a house mistress with three or four assistant mistresses. Each house had two physically separate sides but was united by a strong corporate spirit. The five houses were named after men of action who were also scholars. Rivalry between houses was intense and in all sports and activities. The school opened with only four houses and 450 pupils, the fifth house was added later.

Sepia
        Photo of the Quarterdeck.
The Quarterdeck

The school enjoyed magnificent facilities in premises which had been the German naval barracks built by Doenitz. There were teaching and craft blocks, assembly and dining halls, a double gym, track and playing fields, "hospital" block, stables with indoor ring, boat-houses, and garages, a .22 rifle range, sickbay and lodgings and mess for unmarried teachers. Though not there at the start, the school soon had a Church of England chapel built by the Royal Engineers as a cruciform from two nissen huts. The former guard house at the front gate was turned into a primary school for children of the staff.

In its first years the school was generously staffed. Apart from the teaching staff there was also an Anglican Chaplain, matrons in all the houses and "hospital", sometimes a school doctor, dentist and CCF officer and seven British admin staff. German staff were also numerous: teachers (of German, riding, physical education, music, sailing), porters, matrons, clerks, drivers, mechanics, gardeners, cooks and a barber. Despite the war ending a mere three years before, the German staff were at once given equal respect and worked hard and loyally. British staff had to serve a probationary year; if they could not stand hectic pace, {or gin and whisky at ten shillings a bottle} their contract ended after one year.

At Gordonstoun, Spencer Chapman had been influenced by a Kurt Hahn, and King Alfred School was founded upon Hahn’s ideals of service, character and discipline. Selected seniors were called Helpers not Prefects, their role being leadership of a young pupils rather than merely authoritarian.

To allow plenty of light for sports, lessons were from 9am till lunchtime and then from 5pm to 7pm in winter and from 2pm to 4pm in summer there was a compulsory rest period after lunch: all pupils on their beds for half an hour.

A major feature was the enormous enthusiasm given to sports and activities. As well as the usual sports there were riding, sailing, boxing, rifle shooting, country dancing, skating and ski-ing in season, printing, Scouts and Guides, Combined Cadet Force with summer camp, Inter-house Music and Verse speaking competitions. The school Tannoy system was used for evening news bulletins, talks and the occasional play (eg "The Man Born to be King", "One Easter"). Especially memorable were major school theatrical productions in the big assembly hall (Butler Hall, which was a fully equipped theatre) "Macbeth", three Gilbert and Sullivan’s, "Toad of Toad Hall", "Tobias and the Angel", "Blythe Spirit", "Alice in Wonderland", "Peer Gynt", "Pygmalion", "The Happiest Days of your Life", "Hands Across the Sea" and "1066 and All That".

K.A.S. won the Milocarian Trophy (for athletics in British schools) from 1952 to 1956 and again in 1957 no less than six times in its short life of a dozen years.

Sepia
        Photo of a Ceremony on the Quarterdeck
Bell & Brass: A Ceremony on the Quarterdeck

A commercial film called "Looking for Trouble" was made at the school in 1949 or 50. Apart from the lead role played by Pelita Neilson, all parts were played by pupils and staff --- and horses. As the Headmaster was incapacitated with a bad back his part was played by his deputy Bryant Aspinall.

For economic reasons totally unrelated to the prowess of KAS, the school was closed in 1959. Alas now the only records of this inspirational school are in the old copies of the "Red Dragon", the school magazine published each term; and in the vaults of the War Office or Foreign Office, but the school lives on in the minds and memories of the Wyvern Club: the hundred or so former pupils and staff who meet each year on a Saturday in January.

This web site is the latest venture of the Wyvern Club, and contains a discussion board in which former Pupils, Staff and Friends of KAS can keep in touch and exchange views throughout the entire year.

Brian Coates (January 2000)